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WRs old vs. new: A statistical comparison

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Justin K. Aller - Getty Images
Jerricho Cotchery #89 of the Pittsburgh Steelers dives for the pylon scoring a nine yard touchdown against Leon McFadden #29 of the Cleveland Browns during the game on December 29, 2013 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

In explaining how the Panthers would try to replace leading receiver Steve Smith, coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers wouldn't necessarily try to find a No. 1 receiver.

Instead, they would look to replace the 10 catches a game their four wide receivers -- all of whom are now gone -- combined for in 2013.

With the acquisition of free agent wideout Jason Avant on Monday, the Panthers are getting closer to Rivera's goal of 10. But they're not there, yet.

Avant and the two other recently signed wideouts -- Jerricho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood -- combined for 7.25 receptions a game last season.

None of the Panthers' new receivers is considered a true No. 1 wideout -- and their numbers from a year ago reflect that.

Cotchery averaged 2.88 catches a game for Pittsburgh, although he had a career-high 10 touchdown catches.

Avant pulled down 2.38 receptions per game in Chip Kelly's system in Philadelphia, while Underwood -- the fastest of the three -- averaged 2.0 catches a game in Tampa Bay.

Domenik Hixon, the Panthers' No. 4 receiver last season, caught only seven passes all season.

If the Panthers take a receiver high in the draft -- or see Marvin McNutt or Tavarres King develop -- it's not unreasonable to suggest they could find someone to catch another 2-3 passes a game.

If that happens -- and Cotchery, Underwood and Avant stay healthy and come close to matching their 2013 numbers -- the Panthers could find their way to 10 catches a game.

But without a true No. 1 receiver -- like Avant had in Philly in DeSean Jackson, Cotchery had in Antonio Brown, and Underwood had in Vincent Jackson -- one of those receivers is going to draw extra coverage.

The bottom line, the Panthers have brought in a proven group of complementary receivers, all of whom are said to be high-character guys who will help in the locker room and with the development of the young wideouts.

On statistics alone, it's hard to argue that Cotchery-Avant-Underwood is a better receiving lineup than Smith-Brandon LaFell-Ted Ginn Jr.

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